This is a common question asked of pastors. It is also one of the reasons given for why people say they don’t like to visit a church. “They are always asking for money.”

But are we?

Since we kicked off a comprehensive campaign this year, we have talked about money more than we usually do. And, of course, it’s “stewardship season.” But aside from that, how often do we ask for money? I mean, directly ask? Some (many) stewardship scholars would chide Pastor Peter and me for not talking about money nearly often enough!

The truth is, we should talk about money because money is a deeply spiritual issue. Money is entangled in our relationship with God and our God-giftedness. And it’s not just a question of: In what do we put our faith? It’s how we understand the way God works in our lives.

We go into the world, to work and learn, deploying the gifts God has first given us: life, time, intelligence, strength, capacity, energy, skills, talents, etc. Everything we bring into our day began as a gift. In return, we are compensated with money. If we do the math carefully, we realize it means the money comes from God, too. Because what we use to earn the money was from God in the first place. Crazy economics, God’s economics!

Therefore, our spiritual well-being includes our relationship to money. A relationship that can hurt us or a relationship that can lift us up. Not by virtue of how much we have, but by virtue of how we steward what we have.

Money can calm our fears by providing basic needs. And anxiety about having “enough” money can consume our time and our relationships. Money is used to measure success, rightfully and harmfully. In our culture, money is both a measure of and a tool for achievement—of place, name, status. Not having “enough” money—or the evidence of “enough” money—can cause shame, isolation, division and hurt. Right relationship with money begins and ends with our understanding that all we have is of God and is ours to steward in the name of God—to care for self, the Body of Christ, and the world.

Learning to give, to steward our finances toward the body of Christ, takes time. We need to be invited and taught, encouraged and welcomed. When we discover the joy of releasing our first fruits to God, we learn that no matter how else things go for us this month, part of ourselves has been poured into sharing the love of God with each other and with the world.

Ted and I each grew up with parents who gave to their churches. I remember my mom sitting at the dining room table on Saturday nights writing one check to the United Methodist Church and one to the Catholic Church. When Ted and I married, we had to grow into giving. We discovered that we share a commitment to letting our money speak: through our faith community, alma mater, and other organizations who embody the values that have been shaped by our faith in a God of abundance, grace, liberation and welcome.

When Ted retired two years ago, we had to come to terms with an abrupt shift in our ability to give. Ted picked up part-time work as a swim teacher at a fraction of his prior income. We tried to increase our pledge annually (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) but with our income reduced nearly by half, it wasn’t feasible. So, we took a deep breath of faith and held firm at the amount we were already giving. Because at half our income, keeping our giving the same was a big increase in percentage giving.

I don’t tell you this to make us an example of righteousness, far from it. I share this to be transparent that Ted and I are committed to financial stewardship at Trinity and that pastor households have the same conversations you have: how much, how often, how courageous. Giving to the church is at the top, the start, the first fruits. Because we believe that what we have been given is a gift entrusted to us to use in generosity to make the gospel of love, justice and inclusion sing.

Is it easy? Rarely. Do we have stressful conversations? You bet. Have we ever watched that money go out the door wistfully, imagining what else we might do with it? Of course. Have we ever regretted it? No. Because, as I said before, no matter what else happens in a month or a year, we know that something meaningful happened with the first of the money God entrusted to us. We have linked our lives with yours in God. We have made sure there is a place to worship in community, a place to form faith, find belonging, care for neighbors, and bring joys and sorrows to be met with love.

Many years ago, there was a couple that belonged to the church I was serving who lived small paycheck to small paycheck. When her mom died, they inherited a fair sum. The first thing they did was give money to the church to complete the elevator in our new building, because she knew her mom would have appreciated and used an elevator. Over the next couple of years, things didn’t go well for the couple, soon the rest of the money was gone with nothing else to show for it. But the elevator is still there: moving kids to faith formation and movie nights, getting equipment where it needs to be, allowing the elders access to the full facility. First fruits still serving the body of Christ.

In the end, our hearts do follow our treasure. What Trinity is really asking for is your heart. Your full heart oriented toward the God who loves you and calls you into hopeful community. Together, we can steward God’s great abundance in such a way that the world will experience and know the love of God and the outpouring of the body of Christ in people, mission, welcome and belonging.

It is our current work. And in the name of God, it is our legacy in the making.

Yours in the courage of Christ,

Pastor Chris